John Shiklam in Kaduna
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has condemned the manner in which religion and ethnicity was used by politicians during the just concluded elections.
In a statement in Kaduna yesterday, the forum noted that while the courts will resolve some of the controversies that trailed the conduct of the election, the issue of religion and ethnicity cannot possibly be resolved by the courts.
The statement signed by Murtala Aliyu, Secretary General of the forum, noted that in spite of the outcry by those that did not achieve their goals, “the exercise passed off fairly peacefully and the outcomes could be said to have reflected the broad aspirations of the electorate.”
According to him, the elections were characterised by “difficulties and mishaps: polling stations opened late, BVAS failed to upload results real time, there was scattered violence, there was vote buying, voter intimidation, etc.”
The forum said however, that there is nowhere in the world where elections are perfect.
“Where in the world do they organise perfect elections? The size of our operations in any event are so vast and complex that isolated incidents of this nature are impossible to prevent,” Aliyu said.
The statement however said the forum was “pleased to note that candidates that felt dissatisfied with the outcome of the elections, including presidential candidates of the (PDP) Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) have resolved to go to court, not the streets, to seek redress. That’s the right and honourable thing to do.”
The forum lamented that, “Unfortunately, there is one particular problem thrown up by these elections that cannot possibly be addressed by the courts.
“It is the deployment of ethnic and religious sentiments as a driver of politics in Nigeria.
“As we have seen in Lagos and elsewhere, ethnic and religious zealots have a way of turning political and election campaigns into life and death struggles.
“They issue threats of violence and at times actually attack supporters of rival candidates with a view to intimidating and stopping them from casting their votes.
“It ought not come as any surprise that voter apathy and absenteeism were unusually high in many areas – as well as why voter turnout was very low across the country.
“In Lagos where the problem created by ethnic and religious politics has continued to fester, acrimony and bad blood between Yorubas and Igbos have become a matter of concern to the security agencies.
“In the wake of the ethnic crisis, Yoruba and Igbo partisans freely profile one another and accuse themselves of criminal conduct, including as cheats, bandits, kidnappers, land-grabbers, etc.”
Aliyu said, “ironically, ethnic profiling and accusations of criminality without evidence have always been levied against hapless Northerners especially, the so-called herders or economic migrants by the South and mostly supported by the press.”
He alleged that, “They stigmatised Northerners, convicting them for offenses they know nothing about.
“Northerners were forced to live under the shadow of guilt and criminality without trial.” The forum said, “perpetrators of these injustices couldn’t have known that a day such as this would come when they will inflict injustice not on Northerners but against one another.
“All of which underscores the very serious consequences of politics rooted in religion and tribalism.
“It is a political virus. Nigerians must do everything within their power to eliminate this virus and go on to inoculate ourselves against reinfection in the years to come.
“This time, it is truly a matter of life and death. Let us as Nigerians love and care for one another. Let us focus on what unites us and not our differences.”